It's hard to believe that September 17 will be SleuthSayers' second birthday. What's even harder to believe is that I've been able to come up with something to say every alternate Saturday for those two years. (Notice that I didn't use the phrase "something meaningful to say.") Not surprisingly, my greatest thrill in participating in this blog project has not been the writing of my columns but the reading of my blogmates's columns every day. I never fail to learn something about mysteries, writing, or life in general.
My fond memories of the SleuthSayers experience will always be linked to my fond memories of its predecessor, Criminal Brief. For four years I wrote the Saturday column there, which we called "Mississippi Mud"--a reference, probably, to both my location and the clarity of my writing. I remember that when James Lincoln Warren invited me in 2007 to jump aboard the CB train, I was delighted and honored to be one of the seven bloggers on the team (I still can't figure out how I was allowed to join such a stellar group), but I was also scared to death. I was a short-story writer, not a blogger/columnist. How in the world could somebody--anybody--come up with something to write about a specific subject (short mystery fiction, in this case) once a week, every week?
The answer, of course, is that all of us occasionally ventured away from the clearly-marked trail and dabbled in other topics, although they usually did relate in some vague way to mysteries or writing. The same goes for SleuthSayers. We're mostly crime fiction writers here, but now and then we take our notepads and canteens and wander off into the weeds to cover other subjects. I'm particularly fond of movies, and especially suspense movies (watching them and writing about them), so most of my off-the-rez columns have been cinematic. Hopefully our sideline discussions, which I try to keep to a minimum, are either interesting or entertaining or instructive. And the variety does helps keep us sane (or less insane).
I also had to learn not to worry about blundering into an area of crime writing that someone else might have already written about. Ronald Tobias once said there are only twenty "master plots" in fiction, and the challenge is to approach them in different ways. That's also true with regard to blogs/essays. No topic, even if it was covered the previous week or month, is off-limits as long as it's presented in a new light. Another quote: According to Mark Twain, Adam was the only person who, when he said something, could be certain that no one had ever said it before.
To us writers, a big advantage of a project like SleuthSayers is that it's more than just an opportunity for us to voice our thoughts. Because of the "comments" capability of Blogger, we can also see the immediate responses of our readers and colleagues. I've often enjoyed the exchange of comments as much as I enjoyed the columns themselves--whether I was the writer or the reader. And I've learned a lot from the comments my pieces have received. This blog has been fortunate to have a fair number of followers, and--as at Criminal Brief--some have been truly loyal. I value their views and opinions. No small part of all this is that I've also received a number of recommendations to read novels and stories and to see movies that I probably wouldn't even have known about otherwise.
The main thing, though, is that it's just a pleasure to be in the company of others every day who share a love of writing and reading crime fiction. I've always believed that the reading public is attracted to mystery/suspense stories and novels because of two things: (1) conflict is always there in abundance--it's a built-in part of the genre--and (2) they give us a chance to see justice triumph, whereas in real life the bad guys (and good guys) sometimes don't get what they deserve. And for writers, I think the puzzle that's almost always at the center of mystery fiction is the reason we do it. As in no other genre, things must eventually tie together and make sense, and the placement of those puzzle pieces is not only challenging but fun.
What I'm saying is, I love this blog and its mission, and--God help me--I even like putting together these biweekly rants. Matter of fact, I'm headed out of town today to yet another booksigning, and I plan to use the driving time to try to come up with something for my column on September 28. (Maybe even something meaningful, this time.)
Until then, I'd like to sincerely thank our readers and my fellow Sayers of Sleuth for all the things you've taught me over these past two years. I've had a wonderful time.
Happy birthday/anniversary to all of us.